Gaudreau gets start for Team Canada’s opener

Ben Gaudreau is hoping for good things tonight as he gets the start for Team Canada against Czechia in the opening game of the World Junior Hockey Championship taking place in Moncton and Halifax over the holidays.

“Oh it’s going to be awesome,” Gaudreau told TSN about leading Team Canada onto the ice for the opener.

“When they told me I got the start for that, it was really exciting for me so I just need to treat it like any other game though, stay calm, stay relaxed and play my game.”

The Sarnia Sting netminder and Corbiel native allowed one goal in his only start in a 6-1 win over Slovakia on December 21 in exhibition action.  

Gaudreau is hoping for similar success with Team Canada that he had in 2021 with Canada’s Under-18 team which claimed IIHF U-18 Men’s World Championship gold in Frisco, Texas that spring.   

Without Team Canada anointing a starter, Gaudreau who played no club hockey that year due to COVID-19 took over the net and led Canada to its first U18 gold at the event since 2013. 

During the gold medal game against Russia, Gaudreau turned aside 31 shots and was selected as the tournament’s top goaltender after posting a 5-0 record. He led all goaltenders with a 2.20 goals against average and a .919 save percentage.

Strangely enough, his start at the Worlds was his first official game in more than a year following the cancellation of the 2020-21 OHL season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Both Gaudreau and Thomas Milic, who is Ben’s partner again at this tournament, each started in two of Canada’s four preliminary round-robin games, however, Gaudreau was in net for all three playoff games when it really counted. 

Back then, Canada’s Head Coach Dave Barr, said “we just picked Gaudreau because he was a hair better and he ended up playing just fantastic for us.”

For a goalie who had not played a game in a year; Gaudreau certainly performed admirably.  

“He has been outstanding, he was calm and cool in five games for Team Canada,” stated TSN analyst Craig Button about Gaudreau’s play in the tournament. 

The last North Bay area goaltender to win gold at a high-profile international tournament was Colton Point, who won gold with Team Canada at the 2018 World Junior Hockey Championships which took place in Buffalo, New York that holiday season. 

Ironically at Chippewa Secondary where Point shared his gold medal with North Bay fans in the summer of 2018, a young lad named Ben Gaudreau was one of the first visitors to see Colton’s gold. 

Now Benjamin has an IIHF U18 Gold of his own and is looking for more gold this holiday season. 

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